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Climate adaptation through community engagement in Barcelona

Thanks to the interventions carried out by the Cooltorise project, now two spaces can be used as climate shelters for the groups that can be more affected by the summer heat

During early 2023 the Cooltorise team got in touch with several entities involved in community projects around the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, proposing them to co-design outdoor spaces for the improvement of thermal comfort during summer. The outreach efforts led to discussions around five community projects, opening opportunities for different collaborations.

Four co-creation processes were carried out with communities that were regularly using an outdoor space, to identify their needs and empower them to build solutions to increase their climate resilience in that space. Three of them were located in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, one of the most densely populated municipalities in the EU[1] and with significant lack of green spaces: Espai Llavors cooperative bookshop, Centre Ecològic Cultural Parc del Pont de Matacavalls social centre and Cruyff Camp Jordi Alba football pitch. The fourth location, Centre Cívic Bon Pastor social centre, was in Barcelona. The main proposed solutions were to install shadowing elements and plants to reduce the temperature and other functional decorations to increase the people comfort.

In order to implement a chosen solution for each space, many stakeholders were involved in the decision-making process and some barriers were encountered. Despite of that, two interventions have been implemented successfully until now. First, a community-led climate shelter was inaugurated in the courtyard of Espai Llavors and, secondly, a shading structure was installed at the football pitch Cruyff Camp Jordi Alba, daily used by schools and educational projects. The third intervention that is pending to be implemented is a shadowing structure in the Parc del Pont de Matacavalls, where the foundation Contorno Urbano has set up an educational and artistic hub for the local community.

These actions were carried out within the framework of the Cooltorise project, financed by the European Union’s H2020 program. Cooltorise is a project aimed at tackling summer energy poverty and it counts with the participation of Associació Benestar i Desenvolupament (ABD) and Associació Ecoserveis.

A three-step community process

The interventions in outdoor spaces were built around an innovative community-driven co-design methodology composed of three steps, each one involving a session with citizens: (1) an initial diagnostic of the space, (2) a proposal and selection of solutions for improving the space, and (3) the physical intervention of the space through the implementation of the selected solutions.

The methodology was implemented for the cases of Espai Llavors, the Parc del Pont de Matacavalls and the Cruyff Camp Jordi Alba, with a total of 51 citizens participating in at least one of the sessions of the process.

Sharing knowledge about climate resilience

During the diagnostic session, participants engaged in activities to identify the space improvements to cope with summer heat, based on their experiences and needs. One activity consisted in the participants placing coloured flags in a map to indicate which locations of the space needed shade, plants, water-fountains, or it is simply too hot. Another activity was a guided discussion that ran through key questions on the uses (activities, times, etc.) and the characteristics (shade, materials, etc.) of the space to draw together proposals for improvement.

The participants proposals focused mostly on shade, which was quickly detected as the most urgent issue to solve and involved installing either shading structures or vegetation cover. Other issues that emerged were the access to water, the presence of mosquitoes, the aesthetics, and the comfort of the space.

Graphic support of the diagnostic session in the Parc del Pont de Matacavalls

Selection of solutions

During the second step of the process, the Cooltorise team worked with the local community to identify feasible solutions to address the most urgent issues detected during the diagnosis phase. The selection of the solutions also considered technical and economic requirements.

Some challenges appeared during the process to select the solutions. Namely, solutions that impacted the public space were discussed with the municipality of l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, about what could be technically feasible to implement while guaranteeing safety and following local regulations. From the participants side, many solutions had to be discarded due to the concerns of the participants about vandalism and losing useful public space. Probably, the main challenge was to find the balance between maximizing the effect of the intervention while having to reduce its complexity and cost.

Design proposal of the shading structures for the Cruyff Camp Jordi Alba, presented to the municipality and to a group of participants of an educational summer camp

The exciting results

The final step of the process was to implement the selected solutions. This was done with the help of specialized technicians in the case of complex shading structures, and also involved the participation of citizens.

The results, some of which can be seen in the images below, demonstrated the capacity of engagement and collaboration of the local communities towards the common goal of urban climate resilience. Furthermore, the participative methodology allowed for empowerment on climate resilience for people and other involved actors in the process.

Finally, the whole process resulted in a set of solutions for all the participating communities and two physical interventions up to now. These spaces can now be used as climate shelters for those population groups more affected by the summer heat, can be used as recreational spaces for schools, educational and recreational entities and individuals, and can help creating welcoming spaces for strengthening community ties and promoting inclusion.

Interventions implemented in Espai Llavors and in Cruyff Camp Jordi Alba

For more information about the outdoor space interventions, the heat-wave alert system and other summer energy poverty mitigation activities carried out by the Cooltorise project, you can consult the website: https://cooltorise.eu/

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